Takeaways from a hoarding intervention strategy
hoarding intervention strategy
A recent study of the City of Vancouver’s Hoarding Action Response Team provides key takeaways for fire departments.
Posted: March 14, 2019
Hoarding poses increased fire safety risks as hoarded items often include combustibles — such as reading materials or clothing — piled on or near heating sources. Hoarded materials may also impede escape in the event of fire and can impair first responder entry, navigation and exit.
Hoarding is identified by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder characterized by the accumulation of clutter to the point where it interferes with the functional use of the home. Between two and six percent of the general population is estimated to suffer from the hoarding disorder.
Hoarding intervention challenges
An effective intervention into a hoarding situation by fire departments and community agencies can be difficult. Residents may:
- Be embarrassed about their behavior.
- Lack the organizational skills to make necessary changes.
- Be overly attached to belongings.
- Lack insight into dangers posed by hoarding.
- Revert to the same behavior if moved to a new location.
- Reject the authority of enforcement officials.
The City of Vancouver’s intervention approach
In May 2012, the City of Vancouver (Canada) formed a multi-agency Hoarding Action Response Team (HART) comprised of fire and property inspection departments, along with mental health workers from the city’s health department. Their purpose was to build a coordinated intervention whenever hoarding cases were identified.
Vancouver Fire Rescue Service Protocol
Upon referral, a fire inspector and health official will:
The team will also make referrals for social, health and mental health resources. Health workers may assist by:
- Advocacy with landlords.
- Engaging social services.
- Helping the resident set manageable weekly goals.
- Educating family members and the resident about hoarding.
Key takeaways from the HART intervention approach
1Kowk, N., Bratiotis, C., Luu, M., Kysow, K., Woody, S., Lauster, N. (2018). Examining the role of fire prevention on hoarding response teams: Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services as a case study. Fire Technology: 54 (1), pp 57-73. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10694-017-0672-0
This summary is for informational purposes only.